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Comcast names Burke to run NBCU

Steve Burke, like his father before him, is going to run a TV network.

Steve Burke, like his father before him, is going to run a TV network.

Burke, the No. 2 executive at Comcast Corp., was named on Sunday to run NBC Universal Inc. when the cable giant acquires 51 percent of the entertainment and news giant, which could be later this year.

Philadelphia-based Comcast announced Burke's position as chief executive officer of NBCU two days after Jeff Zucker, the current head of NBCU, told employees on Friday morning in an e-mail he would leave when the Comcast/NBCU deal closes. Zucker said Friday that he met with Burke two weeks ago and Burke told him that Comcast had wanted him to go.

Zucker noted that Comcast was spending billions of dollars on NBCU and it wanted management control over the business, which has major operations in New York City and Los Angeles, and company-owned TV stations around the nation.

Burke, 52, a former Disney Co. executive whose father, Daniel Burke, was the former top executive at Capital Cities/ABC Inc., was unavailable for comment Sunday. No other organizational changes were announced regarding the post-deal NBCU.

The Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and the Federal Communications Commission are scrutinizing Comcast's proposed deal to acquire 51 percent of NBCU from General Electric. The deal values NBCU at $30 billion. The federal agencies are expected to approve it but with conditions limiting Comcast's market power.

NBCU will be operated as a joint venture between Comcast - the nation's largest cable company - and GE, which has said it was selling NBCU to focus on its industrial businesses. GE chief executive Jeff Immelt said Sunday in a statement, "I have known Steve Burke for many years and greatly respect him. He has deep expertise in this industry and I am very confident that he will be a strong leader for NBC Universal."

Comcast chief executive Brian L. Roberts said, "Steve Burke is an experienced, talented and visionary leader with over 25 years in the media and entertainment industry. Steve is one of the most well-respected executives in the industry, and I am confident that he will lead NBCU forward to a new era of growth."

Zucker will work with Burke to ensure a "smooth leadership transition" until the deal is completed, according to Sunday's announcement.

Burke inherits a company with strong sports, news and cable-TV franchises but flagging prime-time ratings in its legacy fourth-place broadcast-TV network. In a previous interview, Burke said his father once had high praise for the NBC show "Hill Street Blues," a popular 1980s police drama.

More recently, NBC's news division and late-night programming have remained strong but its prime-time lineup has weakened since its 1990s dominance in the "Must-See TV" era of comedy hits "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

NBC Universal also owns the Telemundo television network along with 26 TV stations; cable channels USA, Bravo, Oxygen, Syfy, CNBC and others; the Universal Pictures movie studio and Focus Features; theme parks in California, Florida and Japan; and has part ownership of online video site Hulu.